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Students share their past Fulbright experiences

To celebrate Fulbright alumni at Illinois State, current Illinois State students who took part in the Fulbright share their stories. #Fulbright@ISU #FulbrightPrgrm

Astri Napitupulu standing in front of a vast stretch of mountains in Sumatra

Astri Napitupulu

Name: Astri Napitupulu
Home Country: Sumatra, Indonesia
Studying: Education
Astri Napitupulu was a chemistry teacher in her home country of Indonesia prior to her time at Illinois State University. She has spent her first year at ISU on the Fulbright Program further increasing her knowledge in the education field. Napitupulu choose to study education at ISU after researching top teaching universities. Coming from a tropical location, Napitupulu was able to narrow down her university selection by focusing on regions that have snow as that was a unique and important experience for her. Because the education system in the United States is different from what Napitupulu is used to, she has been grateful that her professors have been approachable and understanding of her cultural background throughout her master’s program. Napitupulu has enjoyed every aspect of her Fulbright Program including the opportunities it has provided her to connect with other Fulbright Scholars from her country and throughout the world. The responsibility of being a Fulbright Scholar pushed Napitupulu to excel in her education while studying at ISU.

Napitupulu comes from the lesser known island of Sumatra. During her time in the United States, Napitupulu wants to increase understanding of her home country of Indonesia. She wants others to know that Indonesia is a multicultural country that is made up of 13,000 islands and over 300 ethnic groups. During her time in the United States, Napitupulu would love to have made traditional Indonesian foods including Rendang a national dish of beef or pork, spices and coconut, to share with others. However, she feels her cooking is not an accurate representation of her home country because she feels she is not the best cook. Instead she encourages others to visit Indonesia and experience the traditional food themselves. After finishing her studies at ISU, Napitupulu is considering either pursing a Ph.D. program or returning to her home country and continuing teaching.

Olga-Kostyrko wearing sunglasses and smiling

Olga Kostyrko

Name: Olga Kostyrko
Home Country: Kiev, Ukraine
Studying: Visual culture
Coming from the vibrant urban area of Kiev, Ukraine to the calm rural area of Normal, Illinois, Olga Kostyrko feels like she has been living in a dream during her time in the Fulbright Program at Illinois State University. When Kostyrko started her studies at ISU she had no idea that her acceptance into the Visual Culture program would be such a perfect fit in fusing together all of her interests into one unique interdisciplinary master’s program. She has enjoyed the vast knowledge of her professors and the unique perspectives of her classmates during her two years at ISU. Kostyrko also feels that the campus community at ISU is strong and she has really enjoyed how diverse and socially aware ISU students are. She is grateful for the financial support the Fulbright Program has provided her during her studies at ISU and is a strong advocate for the program.  She particularly enjoyed meeting scholars from around the world during the Fulbright International Seminar she attended in Washington, D.C.

One of the biggest adjustments for Kostyrko during her studies at ISU has been assimilating to the social practices of Americans. Coined “social fluff” by Kostyrko, the greetings and ways people converse with each other has been a unique cultural experience for her. Even though she thought of America as a melting pot of cultures, she was surprised by how unique and new her own culture was to Americans. Although Kostyrko plans to ultimately work in Europe or the Ukraine, she hopes to complete an internship during her remaining time in the United States working for a Non-governmental organization (NGO) or as a curator. While there has been a lot of opportunity for travel during her two-year program, Kostyrko feels something would be missing in her experience if she didn’t visit the West Coast. It is high on her list of remaining sights to see in the United States. Kostyrko also highly encourages others to visit her home country of Ukraine. She strongly recommends tourists walk through Kiev and take in the food, architecture and heritage surrounding them. Getting lost in the city is recommended for the particularly adventurous. Real Ukrainian food according to Kostyrko is the “cheapest and best food you will have in your life.”

Name: Layaly Hamayel
Home Country:  Ramallah, Palestine
Studying: Developmental psychology
Fulbright Scholar Layaly Hamayel is nearly at the end of her two-year studies at Illinois State University. Hamayel knew that studying Developmental Psychology at ISU would provide her with the skills she needs to achieve her goal of working with children. During her studies at ISU, Hamayel has enjoyed the small class sizes allowing her to feel like her voice is truly heard. She has also really appreciated how approachable her professors have been. As a Fulbright Scholar, she especially enjoyed the seminar that was offered by the Fulbright Program. This seminar provided her with a unique opportunity to meet other students from around the world and from different academic backgrounds. She was impressed with the diversity of initiatives these scholars were undertaking and found it eye opening and inspiring.

Although she has found that not all students and community members know where Palestine is, Hamayel has enjoyed how interested others are in her culture. While not all aspects of American cuisine is to Hamayel’s liking she has fully embraced peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a staple in her diet. She also enjoys that she can easily find coffee everywhere. It is something she will miss upon returning home. Still on her bucket list of sights to see while she is in the U.S. is the Grand Canyon. Upon completing her Fulbright Program, Hamayel hopes to either gain practical experience through an internship in the U.S. or returning to Palestine to start her career. Hamayel recommends tourism to her home city of Ramallah. Tourists should keep in might that even though Ramallah is the second largest city in Palestine, it is easily accessible on foot. This accessibility allows tourists to take in the lively atmosphere of the city.

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